While driving out 70 toward Thursday’s Frederick Keys v. Winston-Salem Dash doubleheader, I decided I wanted to study one player. I’m a Catons-villain, so it felt right to me to pick CCBC-Catonsville alumnus Mike Flacco. (Plus Ronnie Welty moved up to AA.) Flacco’s name is famous in Baltimore, but I don’t follow football. If Mike Flacco has anything to give to the O’s at first base, that’s what is important
At first impression, watching sprints before the game, Flacco looks like he could be a major leaguer. In A ball, many of the kids are so small they make Brandon Fahey look powerful. But Flacco stands a head taller, at 6’ 6’’ with a slim but strong frame. His build suggests he could put on the muscle to hit for some power but still be mobile on the field.
We’ve seen some hacked up fielding at the infield corners recently, so defense was first in my mind. Flacco has the basics. As the photo shows, he sets up nicely. He’s quick to the bag on grounders and his footwork was natural and never awkward. He dressed this up with a few nice plays – quickly blocking an unexpected and errant DP attempt from the outfield, making two slick picks across his body on low hop throws, recovering his foot to the base instantly when a throw drew him off.
On the minus side, we made one weak effort on a grounder to his right. It was a catchable ball but he didn’t get the glove down to the ground. No harm, since the 2B backed it up and got the out 4-1. He had plenty of time on an at-‘em grounder, but still underhanded the feed behind his pitcher. But again, an out is an out. Eyes have their well-known limits in evaluating defense, but to my eyes Flacco shouldn’t hurt his teams defensively if he goes up levels.
With Welty gone, Flacco came into this game leading the Keys offense, OPSing .830 in 62 at bats. That he went 0-7 over the 14 innings clearly doesn’t mean anything. What concerns me is how he did it.
In his first AB, I thought I liked his approach. He checked on a high fastball, took a series of breaking balls to get into a deep count, and then scorched a fastball to short to reach on a fielder’s choice. So he had a plan, looking fastball. OK. On the next up, he got the first pitch high fastball again and flied it to deep center. Next time he took a few, but skied another high fastball. In the second game, he flied out four more times. All were on high fastballs, with the only difference being the count. Whenever it came, he got under it.
Yes, it’s just 7 at bats and when your OBP started the day at .395 there’s a fair chance it’s a fluke. But when the geek sitting behind the dugout with a scorebook knows the opposing staff has your number, then the pro ballplayer should be making an adjustment. I also wonder about taking every breaking ball strike at this level. They’re not going to get easier to hit later.
Altogether, I believe there’s a good chance I’ll get to watch Mike Flacco again at Bowie in a year or so. Whether he has success any further than that, I doubt it. At this point, the 25 year old 31st rounder is sitting at High-A in his 4th year with the organization. To be unbiased, I wrote this before looking back at what MuchO GustO has written about him. Last year, Higgins listed Flacco among "The Meh." We agree.